Women affected by breast cancer find strength in numbers

Panel discussion focuses on ways to bring people together

When Emily Keeton was diagnosed with breast cancer, connecting with others in the same situation was tough. It wasn’t until someone told her about a woman who was tweeting about her treatment that Keeton felt she had found a kindred spirit.

“She was funny, real, and communicating what I felt,” says Keeton, head of mergers and acquisitions at WeWork.

By following the tweets and exploring hashtags, Keeton learned #bcsm was a weekly Twitter chat led by a surgeon and two survivors. And this is how she found a sense of community during a period when she felt very small and very isolated.

“It was a bat signal in lonely times,” says Keeton. “This is where social media works and shines.”

Finding ways to bring together women battling cancer is important for Keeton. She’s among the participants in a Breast Cancer Awareness Panel at 6 p.m. on Oct. 19 at WeWork’s headquarters in Chelsea, New York.

The stellar panel—featuring survivors, family members, and the medical community—will be introduced by former former Elle editor Kelly Killoren Bensimon, who will be giving away copies of her new novel “The Second Course,” and moderated by Emmy-nominated television producer Natalie Thomas. Panelists include the renowned surgical oncologist Eleni Tousimis and Clarke Adams, whose late wife, Lisa Bonchek Adams, was a noted breast cancer blogger and advocate.

Keeton is grateful that WeWork spaces around the world have hosted this event and many others related to breast cancer awareness. The same day there’s a Lunch and Learn at Mexico City’s WeWork Cervantes featuring Lilián Gómez from the Breast Cancer Foundation.

“I’m proud to work for a company that uses our spaces to bring good into the world,” says Keeton.

Keeton is not the only breast cancer survivor on the panel. She will be joined by Hillary Black, co-founder of a talent management firm for the advertising and design industry called Kay & Black.

“Very often in the last six months, my cancer story has come up in conversation,” says Black. “It changes who you are, and it changes what kind of legacy you want to leave behind. However many years you have left on planet you want to spend building that legacy. And one of the ways to do that is giving back.”

The mother of two young children, Black started a Facebook group called Moms Fighting Cancer.

“When I was first diagnosed, I only wanted to talk with people with the same experience as me,” says Black. “I needed to hear their success stories. But now I want to hear everyone’s stories.”

Black, a member of WeWork Times Square for the last seven months, says she is thrilled that the company is giving a voice to cancer survivors.

“It’s like a circle of goodness,” she says. “I’m grateful WeWork is hosting it.”

Keeton says the WeWork panel discussion is another way to connect with cancer patients and survivors.

“Life isn’t going to go back to what it was,” she says. “This is a chronic condition. Talking gives comfort, and it’s a small way to help by sharing what I’ve learned.”

And her advice for everyone, not just the 250,000 women diagnosed with breast cancer every year, is loud and clear: “The most important things are getting health insurance and being your own advocate. If you feel like something is wrong with your body, listen to it.”

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